By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
“I am here in solidarity with the Portside Towers Association,” began Isaac Jimenez, the co-chair of the Hudson County Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) said during public comment.
“Every week, we’re knocking on doors. We’re hearing about landlords breaking the law and going on. We’re hearing of many longtime lifetime Jersey City residents having to leave the city.”
He has been a strong advocate of Jersey City adopting a right to counsel, noting that other cities and states have such a law on the books already.
“The office of tenant-landlord relations does not enforce rent control regulations,” he also declared.
“We need this right to counsel … to be funded for tenant education advocacy … by the developers pricing out longtime residents.”
Another resident, Cameron Orr, said that he had moved eight times in the past decade, which is the type of situation that allows landlords to raise their rents.
“A lot of times, people don’t think they can assert their rights … It’s time they paid their fair share,” he said about developers.
“Jersey City is the most expensive city to live in in the United States,” Hudson County Commissioner candidate Adrian Ghainda, who is running in District 2, said.
He said that while for some $2,000 a month for a one-bedroom is considered affordable, in some sections of the city, that would very much still be considered unaffordable.
“I have friends and neighbors scrambling to find places to live. The housing market betrays the narrative of a tale of two cities … We need a strong right to counsel,” adding that 70 percent of city residents are renters.
“Housing is a human right, and we need laws that actually represent that.”
Jessica Brann noted that she has always had to work hard and has lived paycheck to paycheck and residents like her are a primary reason why rent control rules need to be taken seriously.
“Laws are being violated with willful disregard. Jersey City won’t enforce its own laws … You sit there and continue to turn a blind eye. Stand up for what’s right for your constituency,” she declared.
Brann wanted a clear form on rent control to be enforced, of which they had previously submitted a sample to the council.
“We are a growing movement. We aren’t going anywhere. We will continue to shine on a light on these injustices.”
Furthermore, Tahera Hamdani said she had seen rats in Portside Towers, something that became an almost weekly issue. She said she was charged a 30 percent increase at the same time, which led her to withholding rent.
She also claimed that they sought to evict her while she was sick with COVID-19.
“When you’re dealing with a corporate bully that’s been enabled for a while, it takes time to shake it down. No filing, no exemption,” she said.
Anna Davies, a Portside Towers resident for eight years, and also characterized Equity as a corporate bully. Her seven-year-old daughter, Lucy, also addressed the governing body.
“This is home. People have had this situation where they couldn’t deal. I want the rent to hopefully get better. I feel like people are not making fair prices. I am asking for fairness and for you to enforce 260.”
City Clerk Sean Gallagher commended Lucy Davies on her public remarks.
Jessica Rasulo said she has lived in Portside Towers for nine years and expressed frustration that addressing the council multiple times hasn’t led to any changes yet.
“My neighbors and I have been here for the last seven-plus council meetings. I’ve missed six bedtimes. We need to be here to fight for our rights … to fight for our neighbors who didn’t have the privilege of being here,” she began.
“We’ve been bullied individually for years … under the threat of legal repercussion.”
Suzanne DeFelice said Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise sent a flyer offering housing assistance.
“You have failed to protect us by not enforcing your own law. Thousands of lives have been upended and ignored.”
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop sent a mailer too, DeFelice noted.
“He then prides himself on an effort to be transparent. I find these statements to be a farce. We have had no response or acknowledgment from Mayor Fulop on the lack of enforcement.”
DeFelice said Rent Leveling Administrator Pastor Shyrone Richardson has done nothing to address or enforce rent control while in office.
“Where is his answer? When will your vote take place on this new form? I invite Mayor Fulop to this meeting so we can look him in the eye.”
Tara Smythe thanked Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore and Ward E Councilman James Solomon for attending their community meeting at 70 Greene St. at the beginning of the month.
“My landlord gifted all or part of the school they built to the city. They could do anything. The system is broken and overloaded,” exclaimed Judith Feury.
“My family was hit with a staggering 32 percent rent increase last August,” Michelle Herrmann, another of Portside Towers resident, asserted.
She explained that all the elevators were broken in her building when she was pregnant.
“Is the city system of determining which building is regulated by rent control so rigged?” Portside Towers West Tenant Association President Michele Hirsch asked.
“Why is Jersey City refusing to enforce the rent control law?
Unlike previous meetings, the council did not respond to their concerns.